Please Do Not Use Only CAM

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

AUGUST 15, 2017

Most cancer patients at least consider using some CAM therapies during or after their treatments. There is never a problem with external treatments (think Reiki and acupuncture and massage), but there may be problems with anything you ingest. That is why I and everyone else continuously begs you to speak with your doctors before swallowing mega vitamins or herbs or supplements. The studies have just not been done, and we don't know what might interfere with chemotherapy or radiation.

As reported in the Journal of the NCI, this study from Yale found that patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers who used only CAM treatments had a greater risk of dying from their cancers. As reported in EurekAlert:

Using alternative medicine only for cancer 
linked to lower survival rate

Patients who choose to receive alternative therapy as treatment for curable cancers instead of conventional cancer treatment have a higher risk of death, according to researchers from the Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center. The findings were reported online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 
There is increasing interest by patients and families in pursuing alternative medicine as opposed to conventional cancer treatment. This trend has created a difficult situation for patients and providers. Although it is widely believed that conventional cancer treatment will provide the greatest chance at cure, there is limited research evaluating the effectiveness of alternative medicine for cancer. 
While many cancer patients use alternative therapy in addition to conventional cancer treatments, little is known about patients who use alternative therapy as their only approach to treating their cancer. 
"We became interested in this topic after seeing too many patients present in our clinics with advanced cancers that were treated with ineffective and unproven alternative therapies alone," said the study's senior author, James B. Yu, M.D., associate professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale Cancer Center. 

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Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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